Advice from Amy: A Teacher Rumor...
Is ten-year-old hearsay still worth reporting?
Dear Amy: I recently heard that a teacher from my high school slept with one of his underage students.
I know it is possibly just a rumor but based on the source (a close friend of the student), I believe it is true.
This would have happened 10 years ago, yet my gut instinct is to report this to the school. Afterall, he is still a teacher there.
Is it none of my business?
I do not know either the student or the teacher well. Based on conversations I’ve had, it seems as though many of my old classmates knew about this but said nothing.
Would it be wrong of me to blow up the life of a potentially innocent teacher?
And even if he is guilty, what if the victim has no wish to relive it. Shouldn’t that be her choice?
Yet, I feel like it’s my duty to say something.
What if he’s still sleeping with students?
If I know about predatory behavior and I stay silent, aren’t I part of the problem?
– Guilty Bystander
Dear Guilty: You have heard about this third-hand. You should strongly urge the person who repeated this to you (and is closer to the source of the information) to report it to the school. If she won’t, then you should. Simply tell them that this is what you heard and that you cannot verify it. They are morally and legally compelled to investigate.
Even if you assume that the student involved believed that she “consented” to this at the time, the reason this sort of relationship is a crime is because underage people cannot legally give their consent. And the reason underage people can’t give their consent is also why they can’t legally drive without a license or drink alcohol – an adolescent’s brain and emotions aren’t developed enough to make this sort of potentially life-altering choice.
Children and teens are vulnerable, and that’s why there are laws to protect them. Students are vulnerable to the power dynamic regarding the adults who are supposed to respect and protect them, and that’s why it is against the law (and school policy) for teachers and school staff to have sex with them.
And even if this former student believes that she graduated from this experience unscathed, there might be other students who were victims of this teacher who are traumatized.
So yes, people who have heard about this have a moral obligation to report it.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson